For immediate release:
FairPlay welcomes the decision by Trade, Industry and Competition minister Ebrahim Patel to impose, at last, the anti-dumping duties against chicken imports from producers in Brazil and four European Union countries that he approved but suspended a year ago.
The decision should never have been delayed – fears of the impact of new tariffs on retail chicken prices were exaggerated – but struggling chicken producers can now breathe a sigh of relief.
Minister Patel has probably also rescued the poultry master plan he signed with industry leaders in 2019. The delay in imposing anti-dumping duties broke government’s commitment in the master plan to “act decisively” against illegal and dumped chicken imports. Resentment would only have escalated had he announced a further delay.
The industry was already battling and in distress when the delay was announced last year. Since then, poultry producers have suffered multiple blows, and have been producing chicken at a loss because of the impact of load shedding, rocketing feed prices and infrastructure failures.
To that was added an increasing flow of dumped chicken from Brazil, by invitation of Minister Patel who had given them 12 months to import as much as they liked.
Patel’s decision last August went against the advice of South Africa’s trade regulator, the International Trade Administration Commission (ITAC) which had investigated accusations of dumping by Brazil and four EU countries. ITAC found the complaints justified – the five countries were dumping chicken portions here, harming the local industry and costing local jobs – and recommended anti-dumping duties against producers in all five countries.
Minister Patel agreed, but his 12-month delay extended the damage being done to local chicken farmers and local jobs. It also did nothing to increase producers’ faith in Patel or the master plan.
At least he did not heed the hysterical propaganda emanating from chicken importers, who have been predicting all sorts of local and international disasters if the anti-dumping duties are imposed. Importers’ scare stories were part of a self-interested campaign to preserve the lucrative flow of dumped imports from which they have profited over the years, while local jobs were lost.
Minister Patel now has the uphill task of trying to rekindle the warmth and enthusiasm which greeted the introduction of the master plan nearly four years ago.
The master plan aims to expand the local industry while curbing chicken imports overall, and stopping the illegal and dumped imports that had held back industry growth. It has been beset by multiple delays and much of it is incomplete.
The plan envisaged a revitalised chicken industry creating new jobs as it expanded into new domestic markets and enjoyed an exports bonanza. However, while production has increased, domestic consumption has not, and exports have hardly risen in four years.
The plan’s successes are nearly all due to contributions from poultry producers, who have exceeded their master plan commitments to invest and create jobs. By contrast, nearly every part of the master plan requiring government action is behind schedule.
Minister Patel needs to crack some whips to get things moving swiftly. He needs to meet regularly with local producers and chicken importers, who are also exporters and signatories to the master plan. He needs to rebuild trust, with and between his master plan partners.
Poultry producers have done their bit. Now it is up to the government – belatedly – to do the same.
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